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Basic tasks like surfing the Web and email don't take much processing power, so a smaller, more efficient "netbook" may be an energy-saving option when buying a laptop.

Photograph by Dmitriy Shironosov/Shutterstock

Usage Tips

  • Deploy stand-by mode. Computers can be configured to go into sleep, standby, or hibernate mode if left unused after a period of time. EPA recommends having them go into such a mode after 30 to 60 minutes of inactivity, though setting it for a shorter period of time saves even more energy. Using the sleep or hibernate mode can cut an average computer's power consumption by half, the agency estimates. Keep in mind hibernation is not the same as running a screen-saver, which does not, contrary to popular belief, save any energy. EnergyStar offers a free program called EZ Wizard that walks you through the process of setting up power-management features in Microsoft Windows XP. Power-saving software is available for the Macintosh as well, through the Power Save Mac software.
  • Extend laptop lifetime. Does your current laptop do everything you need? If so, consider holding onto it for a while longer. These days, even models five or six years old can execute almost all currently offered software. Getting more life out of your laptop not only saves you money but makes more efficient use of the materials that have already been deployed. If you do get a new laptop, and your old model still works, consider donating it to a non-profit, such as Computers with Causes, which refurbishes computers for educational institutions. Or donate to someone else in need of a computer.

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